Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Speaking at the Athens Forum 2014 - Democracy under Pressure event held at the Acropolis Museum yesterday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that Greece has returned from the brink of collapse, while "lauding the country’s ability to keep going through the damaging effects of the crisis." The event was organized by Kathimerini and the International New York Times.

"Now the picture is different," he added, making reference to a series of positive economic indicators suggesting that Greece is back on track, including its achievement of a primary surplus and climbing the global competitiveness index…"We jumped from 147 to 36 on the competitiveness index ... and we are going to move further up, to the real top places of world competitiveness." The premier was referring to Greece’s ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 index, up to 36th place from 147th place in the 2013 edition of the ranking.

In his opening speech at the Athens Forum, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Evangelos Venizelos referred to the risks that modern democracy is faced with and the need to strengthen the democratic institutions amid instability and the economic crisis.

He noted that a great institutional and moral dilemma is being raised; the potential for enemies of Democracy to exploit democratic rights, institutions, and processes. "What is most critical is that we shape democratic political responses to the causes of the economic and social pressure Western Democracy is under in its own home. This concerns the need for policies that safeguard the employment, dignity and prosperity of all citizens. The need for policies that redress inequalities and injustices, and that safeguard social cohesion," he stressed. 

 He also spoke about the Arab Spring and its aftermath, which we are now seeing in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, with the transformation of terrorist organizations: "To have Democracy, you must have a structured state and basic guarantees of internal and external security."

In an interview with CNBC, on September 15, Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis detailed the merits of privatisation for some of the government's assets."We have seen that there is a lot of interest in the Greek ports, airports, other companies. People are lining up now to buy assets. We didn't have this experience earlier," he said. He added that "this is because investors do see there is only upside potential in the country. The economy has stabilised after a lengthy, lengthy recession of six years so their bet will succeed." He added that he doesn’t expect deflation to stay forever. “Once expansion begins I think the deflation problem will go away."

Finally Hardouvelis stated that "we expect that we are going to see positive growth for the first time in the third quarter."

A rare 12th-century manuscript scribed by Theoktistos that was returned to Greece just a few days ago from the J. Paul Getty Museum in California will be exhibited at the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens until the end of October, before it goes back to the Holy Monastery of Dionyssiou on Mount Athos where it belongs. The parchment-bound code was presented to the museum yesterday by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the Culture ministry leadership.

The masterpiece was stolen in 1960 from the Holy Monastery of Dionyssiou on Mount Athos and was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in California in 1983, after appearing in private collections. In a description of the exhibit, known as "New Testament Ludwing II 4," the J. Paul Getty wrote: “This Greek-language New Testament, containing the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles of Saint Paul, was made in the Byzantine monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Constantinople. A scribe's inscription near the end of the manuscript declares: "This book was finished by the grace of Christ in the year 6641 [1133 A.D.]...by the hand of the sinner Theoktistos."

The 20th edition of Athens International Film Festival - Opening Nights is taking place on September 17-28, featuring over 100 films from around the globe, 3 competition sections, special tributes, documentaries and more than 60 Greek shorts. It's worth noting that the festival is one of the few in the world to feature a "Music & Film" competition section.

The Official Competition Section will feature long awaited films, such as "10.000km" by Carlos Marques-Marcet, a disarmingly honest depiction of long-distance romance, and "71," a political thriller by Yann Demange that debuted at this year's Berlinale. It is noted that this year the Opening Nights is hosting a tribute to Robert Altman with some of his most influential 70s classics, "Nashville", "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "M.A.S.H."

  • Greek Documentaries on Women’s Rights
The Festival will screen two Greek documentaries on the sensitive subject of the ritual of the female genital mutilation (FGM). Both films are directed by aspiring Greek female directors and offer realistic insights on a practice that is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

Bref” by Christina Pitouli is a 30-min documentary that approaches FGM through conversations with people from Africa who live in Spain and presents their opposed opinions and realities, thus, revealing the complexity of this controversial issue, in which the limits of human rights and cultural heritage are intersected.

"Excision" by V. Velopoulou is a 52-min documentary that focuses on the FGM practices in Kenya and aspires at encouraging every victim of genital mutilation to stand up for their rights.